Adaptogens are a hot wellness trend at the moment, but what exactly are they? Essentially, they’re natural plants that have evolved to help our bodies fight and resist life’s stressors; whether they be physical or mental.
These herbs and roots act like nature’s pharmacy, adapting to what our bodies need. If you’re fatigued, they turn up the energy dial, and when your anxious, they turn the dial down. Adaptogens are particularly useful during acute stress or anxiety, helping us cope and adapt to the pressure naturally. Put simply, adaptogens help our bodies achieve homeostasis or balance in times of need. They are particularly well known for helping cope with anxiety and hormone inbalances.
The use of adaptogenic herbs and roots can be traced back to 3000 B.C. and are linked back to Chinese and Ayurvedic practices. For millennia, people have depended on these herbs and roots for medicinal properties as well ass for food. These plants are healing and rejuvenative and are now making the comeback they deserve.
To gain the benefit of adaptogens, it’s suggested to take them every day for a few weeks. Taking your adaptogen of choice in the morning is preferred as your cortisol is higher in the morning. Taking your adaptogens in the morning will stimulate your adrenals, helping you be more awake and alert.
Some adaptogens are more common than others and are easy to find in natural supplements, in powder form, or even in the produce aisle of your local Whole Foods. Below are some of the more common adaptogens you will see today:
In studies, ashwagandha has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety and promote sleep. It is also known to help the body repair from the damage caused by stress and environmental damage. It has been consumed for thousands of years to promote better learning and memory retrieval. It is an all around body balancer in that it boosts stamina, cognitive abilities, promotes better sleep and reduces stress.
Ginseng has long been one of the most popular herbal remedies. It is often found in supplements as well as tea. It is known to boost memory, increase energy, increase insulin production, and help to relieve headaches. It’s a saught after herb for people who feel overwhelmed and stressed out.
Gotu Kola is part of the parsley family and traditionally has been used by yogis to enhance meditation practices. Traditionally, it is known as a "spiritual" herb for these reasons and is related to the crown chakra at the top of the head. Gotu Kola is known to help balance the nervous system, support connective tissues, and promote healthy blood circulation.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cordeceps was one of the most valued medicines. It has been used for thousands of years as an immune supportive herb, supporting the kidney and lung systems. It is also known to increase stamina, provide antioxidant support and help to control the body’s response to stress. Cordyceps are a mushroom that contain fruiting bodies which provide multiple wellness benefits.
Lion’s mane is an edible mushroom and is known for it’s super food properties and white strand-like projections. Consuming lion’s mane has been shown to help cope with anxiety and stress as well as cognitive function. Animal research has shown that consuming lion’s mane promotes hippocampal neurogenesis —which helps promote good mood and emotion.
The maca root is packed with vitamin C, and is known to boost immunity. One of the well-marketed benefits is that it’s an aphrodisiac that helps increase libido. A 2002 study found that men experienced increased sexual desire when ingesting the maca root and decreased erectile dysfunction.
Moringa, a superfood adaptogen, comes from the moringa tree and it’s leaves are packed with antioxidants and vitamins. It is known fro helping to balance hormones, decrease Type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Known to help with "brain fog" or improve cognitive function, holy basil is also known to reduce bloating or gassy feelings. A small study by Nepal Medical College Journal showed that holy basil helps improve feelings of depression. Aside from relieving stress, it also eases inflammation, alkalizes the body, and fights the common cold.
Is Cannabis an Adaptogen?
Technically, cannabis is not classified as an adaptogen, however, CBD mimics many of the same effects that adaptogenic herbs have on our system. While adaptogens work on the adrenal system cannabis, and CBD, work on the endocannabinoid system. Like adaptogens, cannabis, and particularly CBD, help to balance out stress and anxiety and work to establish homeostasis within the body.
CBD oil is best known for helping to relieve the feeling of anxiety and stress. It is non-intoxicating, so you will not feel the mind altering effects associated with THC. Some scientists believe that CBD works well at reducing anxiety, because of the way it interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain; lack of serotonin may be a principle cause of anxiety and depression.
CBD may also act similarly to SSRIs, such as Wellbutrin, blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. This makes serotonin more available in the synaptic space, increasing serotonin signaling. CBD is known to reduce anxiety, promote better sleep, and help people to better cope with pain.
DIY Recipe: CBD & Ashwanganda Sleep Tonic
Ashwagandha has been used throughout the ages to promote sleep and ease stress. Combined with CBD, it is a perfect sleep and anxiety-reducing tonic. Combining honey, dairy-free almond milk, CBD and ashwagandha root, there’s a potent mix of ingredients included to get a good night’s sleep or ease away the day’s tension. The following recipe should make between 2-3 mugs of sleep tonic, which can be refrigerated after making.
- 6 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tablespoon of local raw honey
- 1 Medjool date
- 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 dashes of nutmeg powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean
- 1 dash of clove powder
- 2 teaspoons of ashwagandha powder
- 2 pinches of Himalayan pink salt
- 1 handful of chopped almonds
- 1 packet of CBD beverage infuser from Cured Nutrition per drink
- 1 1/2 dropper of hemp CBD oil per beverage
Put all of the ingredients into a mixer and blend. Pour into a pot and heat on low for 15 minutes, then pour into a mug and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a handful of chopped almonds, and a dash of love. Sleep well!